InterLaw Diversity Forum
UK Model Diversity Survey ("UK MDS")
In 2019 the InterLaw Diversity Forum, supported by the SRA, signed an exclusive MOU with the American Bar Association (“ABA”) to adapt the ABA’s Model Diversity Survey for use in the UK. In 2020 we solidified this arrangement with the ABA by sign- ing a further exclusive “Collaboration Agreement”. The working title for our UK adaptation is the “InterLaw Diversity Forum UK Model Diversity Survey”.
The UK Model Diversity Survey (“UK MDS”) is a supplier diversity questionnaire which corporate and financial institution signatories (“client signatories”) require all their panel firms/legal service providers to fill out. The purpose of the survey is to serve as the standard for law firms’ reporting of their diversity metrics. The benefits the survey has are data uniformity, time efficiency, and trending year over year in aggregate and for individual firms.
The survey is more sophisticated than what most clients are currently asking from their firms. In-house attorneys and their teams frequently don’t understand or have visibility over the internal workings of law firms so don’t know the right questions to ask. The Model Diversity Survey asks the right questions.
The Model Diversity Survey can help clients shape their decisions about allocation of legal work to law firms/legal suppliers by creating greater transparency around diversity and inclusion in law firms. Microsoft has developed an online dashboard to be used by the clients to make the data collected by the Model Diversity Survey truly accessible and useable. So instead of reams of tabular data sitting with procurement only, GCs and their teams can now easily dig in to compare their panel firms, including comparing their stats over time, if they wish to consider performance around D&I when handing out work.
The Model Diversity Survey will also assist law firms in providing uniform, thorough, and accurate information to their corporate and financial institution clients. Further, it will streamline D&I data collection for law firms by allowing firms to provide a single, uniform set of data to multiple clients. Firms are currently asked for a different set of diversity data, cut a different way, from every client who collects it.
About the Microsoft Dashboard
Microsoft has developed an online dashboard to make the data collected by the UK MDS more accessible and useable. This intuitive platform enables the client signatories to drill deep into the data and to draw out information and insights which might not be possible when viewing such large amounts of data in a tabular format. Clients will be able to make like-for-like comparisons between their panel law firms/legal service providers, as well as to compare data over time and measure their panel firms’ progress.
Current Status of the Project
We have assembled a working group of general counsel, senior in-house lawyers, D&I experts, and law firm representatives to advise us on the project. We have adapted the ABA's 2021 version of the US Model Diversity Survey into a UK version with input from the SRA and the working group. We are also working with the same suppliers as the ABA to develop the infrastructure and systems to launch the UK version. Our aim is to launch the project for end of Q1 2021 and we are currently on track for this date.
The Scotland-Woolf Rule
As an additional “bolt on” to the UK Model Diversity Survey, the InterLaw Diversity Forum’s Apollo Leadership Institute is adapting the “Rooney Rule” from the United States for the UK legal sector as the Scotland-Woolf Rule.
The Scotland-Woolf Rule is named after two pioneering diverse leaders in the UK legal profession:
Baroness Patricia Scotland is the first black female Secretary General of the Commonwealth and the first black woman to serve as attorney general for England and Wales.
Dame Fiona Woolf is a renowned energy lawyer, a former Lord Mayor of the City of London, and a former President of the Law Society of England & Wales.
Both women are trailblazers in the UK legal profession, long time advocates of inclusion and diversity in the legal profession, Patrons of the InterLaw Diversity Forum, and firm supporters of this initiative.
The Scotland-Woolf Rule is an outcomes-focused certification which seeks to increase diverse and socially mobile candidate pools for key leadership positions in law firms. Year-on-year the rule will consider law firm participants’ success rate in engaging with and hiring these diverse candidates into leadership positions. We will grant additional, enhanced certification for those firms who are able to increase diversity in key leadership roles. Firms who are able to demonstrate that diverse candidates are being both considered and short-listed, but who are not able to show definitive progress, will only be eligible for standard accreditation via the rule.
The InterLaw Diversity Forum is uniquely placed for this work, given we have a 360-degree view of inclusion and diversity in the UK legal profession and a longstanding, proven track record in this space.
From our work with senior in-house leaders in the Apollo Leadership Insititute to our work with the next generation of diverse talent through our Student Lab Summit and Student Lab Summer Internship, we are committed to creating connections and opportunities and supporting diverse talent throughout their professional journey as lawyers.
Interlaw Diversity Forum Diverse-Owned Legal Suppliers ("IDOLS")
The InterLaw Diversity Forum will offer innovative bolt-ons and additions to the UK MDS to support driving improvements in diversity and inclusion and social mobility across the profession.
The UK MDS can be used by client signatories to evaluate their current legal service providers around their hiring, retention, and promotion of diverse and socially mobile talent; as well to evaluate potential legal service suppliers during the procurement process. Diversifying your supply chain by purchasing legal services from diverse-owned boutiques or newly established firms, however, remains a difficult challenge.
Our research has shown that diverse and socially mobile talent in the legal sector face structural inequalities. These barriers are greatest at law firms. As a result, many highly skilled diverse and socially mobile practitioners either move to in-house roles or launch their own law firms or legal supply companies.
Although there are other diverse supplier initiatives in the United Kingdom, these have gained less traction across legal services when compared with the United States. With the collaboration and support of the US-based NAMWOLF (National Association of Minority and Women Owned Law Firms), we have based the IDOLS initiative on NAMWOLF’s highly successful model. IDOLS is designed specifically for the legal profession and works hand in hand with the UK MDS to make diverse purchasing easier and more transparent.
Our model differs slightly from the NAMWOLF model in that we will extend beyond legal services suppliers and also include legal tech and consultants who provide other services to the legal sector (e.g. training, communications, etc.).This expanded scope will also enable medium and large law firms who are participants in the UK MDS to improve their own supplier diversity chain as part of the programme.
IDOLS will both certify the ownership of these legal suppliers, as well as vet the quality of their services. This is another important way to drive greater diversity in your organisations own supply chain. A directory of these certified suppliers will be publicly available at no cost.